The Magic of South East Asia on a bike – a visual journey.
One night last week I happened to watch a TED video of Nobel laureate and the founder of behavioral economics, Professor Daniel Kahneman, presenting on the subject of how our ‘experiencing selves’ and ‘remembering selves’ perceive happiness differently. By pure coincidence, I think, earlier the same day I started sorting out pictures of my 2013 Bamboo Road cycling adventure. Coincidence or not, it certainly allowed me to understand Prof. Kahneman’s demonstration. Going through the pictures, I was ‘remembering happiness’ which, of course, is far different than the actual minute to minute experience of cycling across South-East Asia. I wrote several blogs during the trip but that was in the past – whereas now is all about remembering oneself on the trip.
I flew to Hanoi in October of 2013 where I joined 30 or so cyclists who had cycled to the city from Shanghai via Hong Kong on the inaugural Bamboo Road Cycling Expedition. A year and half later while sorting out the photos I am recalling the memories of the places, the smell, the taste.
I grew up in the ’60s when the Vietnam War was on the news just about every night. Walking the streets of Hanoi had a certain surreal quality, more so when, on a short walk , I saw a Ferrari bicycle – in fact, my first Ferrari bicycle ever.
Hanoi today is a large, busy city but my favourite spot was this old temple in the middle of the lake. I sat on a bench across from the spot this photo was taken and watched the world go by recalling the past and the futility of the war.
As I walked the side streets, I loved looking at the narrow old buildings – not to mention the street life. And, of course, cycling in the countryside was a visual treat.
I wrote a blog a few days after we left Laos called ‘12 things I will about miss about cycling Laos‘ but when I think of that country now, I think of the laid-back and easy going Laotian personality and the great, quiet roads. This attitude, of course, had a great impact on all of us.
Cambodia had a rather unsettling impact on me, especially when I visited the ‘Killing Fields’ on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.
On the other hand I had a number of enjoyable experiences when I cycled in and around Angkor-Wat by myself. What a magnificent place!
Thailand, ah Thailand! Cycling through this country away from all the crowds will get you a cornucopia of visuals – a collection that I doubt you would come across if you travel by any other means. Here are some of them. Wonderful street lights; elephants everywhere (this of course is very personal if you recall my history with one particular elephant); Buddhas, Buddhas and more Buddhas; underwater wedding ceremonies; a cyclist using a gas pump for stretching; bamboo rest stops, and a lot more. I have almost forgotten the one not to be missed – the altar of penises.
Malaysia was full of visual surprises but what sticks most in my mind is the surprising mix of cultures along the route we cycled.
And then on the final day the modernity of Singapore; splendid, vibrant and, at times, mesmerizing.
In his TED presentation Prof Kahneman explains in detail how the experiencing self and remembering self often vary greatly but all I can say about the Bamboo Road Cycling Expedition is that both the experience of cycling it and the remembrance of it provide me with great joy, if not happiness.